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South Africans’ Understanding of and Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak: An Online Survey

29 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020

See all articles by Sasiragha Priscilla Reddy

Sasiragha Priscilla Reddy

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Ronel Sewpaul

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC)

Musawenkosi Mabaso

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Saahier Parker

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Inbarani Naidoo

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Sean Jooste

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Tholang Mokhele

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Sibusiso Sifunda

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Khangelani Zuma

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

More...

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 outbreak is in an accelerating phase and South Africa has had the highest number of documented cases during the early phase of the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. This study assessed South Africans’ understanding of and response to COVID-19 during the first week of the country’s lockdown period.

Methods: An online survey was conducted in South Africa from 27 March to 2 April 2020. The survey was distributed widely among several websites and social media networks, including on a data-free platform· Descriptive statistics of knowledge, risk perception, access and trust in information sources, and public and media opinions were calculated· Estimates were benchmarked to the 2019 national adult population estimates.

Findings: Of the 55 823 participants, the majority (83·4%) correctly identified the main symptoms of COVID-19. Over 90% had correct knowledge of the incubation period, with lower rates for 18-29 year olds· Knowledge of symptoms and the incubation period varied significantly by population group (p<0·001), dwelling type (p<0·001) and sex (p<0·001). A quarter (24·9%) perceived themselves as high risk of contracting COVID-19. Risk perception varied by age, population group, employment status and dwelling type (p<0·001). The most prevalent COVID-19 information sources were government sources (72·9%), news websites/apps (56·3%), satellite television (51·6%) and local television (51·4%).

Interpretation: Understanding knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of people facing the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial for guiding strategic policy. The findings assist with clarifying public understanding of COVID-19 as the phases of the country-level epidemic progress, and also directly inform communication needs and gaps.

Funding Statement: None.

Declaration of Interests: The authors have no conflicts of interest.

Ethics Approval Statement: The study received ethical approval from the Human Sciences Research Council Research Ethics Committee (REC) Protocol number: REC 5/03/20.

Suggested Citation

Reddy, Sasiragha Priscilla and Sewpaul, Ronel and Mabaso, Musawenkosi and Parker, Saahier and Naidoo, Inbarani and Jooste, Sean and Mokhele, Tholang and Sifunda, Sibusiso and Zuma, Khangelani, South Africans’ Understanding of and Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak: An Online Survey (4/10/2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3576939 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3576939

Sasiragha Priscilla Reddy

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Cape Town, 8001
South Africa

Ronel Sewpaul (Contact Author)

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) ( email )

118 Buitengracht Street
Cape Town, 8001
South Africa

Musawenkosi Mabaso

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Cape Town, 8001
South Africa

Saahier Parker

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Cape Town, 8001
South Africa

Inbarani Naidoo

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Cape Town, 8001
South Africa

Sean Jooste

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Cape Town, 8001
South Africa

Tholang Mokhele

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Cape Town, 8001
South Africa

Sibusiso Sifunda

Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) - Human and Social Capabilities

Cape Town, 8001
South Africa

Khangelani Zuma

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) ( email )

Private Bag X41
134 Pretorius Street
Pretoria, 0001
South Africa

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